• February 6, 2009
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Gartner Names Contact Center Leaders

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In drafting its annual Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure report, industry research firm Gartner notes steady growth in the market despite the current economic climate.  

That growth, it says, has been driven throughout most of North America and western Europe by customer desire to replace existing systems, but also in other parts of the world by a high volume of first-time, new system purchases.

That’s good news for the vendors that occupy the contact center infrastructure space, which Gartner defines as the equipment, software, and services needed to operate contact centers. That includes telephony, routing, speech self-service, outbound dialing, presence tools, analytics, and computer-telephony integration products. 

Those same vendors are also the focus of the report, which positions contact center technology providers in the Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries, and Niche Players quadrants. Placement is based on a company’s ability to execute on plans related to product and service offerings, pricing, marketing, overall viability, and customer satisfaction, as well as completeness of vision,  market understanding, strategies, business models, and innovation.

Alcatel-Lucent, Aspect Software, Avaya, Cisco Systems, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Interactive Intelligence, and Nortel comprise this year’s Leaders Quadrant, which singles out those companies that Gartner considers to have high viability, broad product portfolios, significant market share, broad geographic reach, a clear vision of how contact centers will evolve, and a proven track record for delivering high-quality contact center products. 

Some of these companies made the Magic Quadrant in 2008 because Gartner decided to combine three separate regional reports covering North America; Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (EMEA); and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions individually into a single worldwide report. In previous years, Alcatel-Lucent, for example, had participated only in the EMEA and APAC reports, while its Genesys subsidiary had participated only in the North America report.

In considering Alcatel-Lucent on a global scale, report authors Drew Kraus, Steve Blood, and Geoff Johnson note that Alcatel-Lucent has a limited customer base, especially in North America, and often competes with its own Genesys subsidiary. Still, they credit the company with having a comprehensive range of solutions contained within its OmniTouch suite. At the same time, though, they warn that those solutions work only within the OmniTouch PCX environment.

The authors give Genesys very high marks for its Customer Interaction Management Platform and other product offerings, noting that they “support a broad suite of highly scalable and fully featured contact center applications.” And while they knock the company on price, they credit it with having strong professional services capabilities, “a strong vision for decoupling contact center applications from a telephony infrastructure,” and for extending call center capabilities into unified communications environments and enterprise workflow beyond the call center.

The report also credits Cisco, Avaya, and Nortel with having a broad range of highly effective products, strong global brand awareness coupled with international customer bases, and extensive partner networks. 

Aspect earned its place due to a strong financial performance (despite the fact it did not seek to aggressively grow its installed customer base), a viable partner network, and a host of unified IP products that provide a common set of application development, management, and reporting tools across a wide range of applications. 

Interactive Intelligence also scored high on adopting unified IP architecture, while the report says Cisco, Genesys, Avaya, and Nortel have been slow to evolve their product sets to such an architecture.

There wasn’t much movement in the other segments of Gartner’s reviews. In this year’s report, Challengers include repeat performers NEC and Siemens. Vendors classified as Niche Players are Altitude Software, Mitel, Huawei, Astara Technologies, and Intervoice, which was acquired by Convergys in the middle of last year. Oracle, SAP, and CosmoCom fill the Visionaries quadrant, while honorable mentions go to ComputerTalk Technologies, Syntellect, and VocalCom.

The report also notes that many of these companies, plus several others that compete in the contact center market, have been steadily migrating their telephony infrastructure from traditional circuit-switched technologies to newer Internet-based systems and unified communications environments. 

That’s an observation shared by James Foy, Aspect’s CEO. “With an evolving focus on bringing unified communications to the enterprise and the contact center, Aspect sees a lot of opportunities for organizations to maximize agent and information worker productivity, improve customer-company interactions, and fine-tune business processes to be more efficient than ever before, which is so important, especially in our volatile economy,” he says.

With that as a backdrop, “companies fitting the early adopter profile are examining innovations in the areas of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), service-oriented architecture (SOA), mobility, rich presence, and collaboration technologies,” the report concludes. 

“Companies fitting the mainstream and late adopter technology adoption profiles are increasingly considering virtual (distributed) contact centers, centralized infrastructure models (supporting both companywide initiatives and operationally independent, multitenant deployments using shared infrastructure resources), Web- and speech-integrated voice portals, and hosted and managed deployment models in order to balance cost-reduction and improved-service initiatives,” it says further.

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